Adam Wilk spotted the Cleveland Indians three runs in the first inning, and that was basically all it took as the Minnesota Twins were stymied by the Reagan-era fastball of Ryan Merritt for four innings in a 9-3 loss at Target Field in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader.

And as quickly as Wilk showed up on the scene, he was gone. His contract was officially purchased from Rochester on Saturday morning, and just hours later he was again designated for assignment — likely to resurface with the Red Wings once all the proper channels are gone through — to make room for reliever Alan Busenitz on the 25- and 40-man rosters. Busenitz is in Minneapolis and in uniform, and will be at manager Paul Molitor’s disposal in the nightcap.

“It’s a tough circumstance to come up and face that lineup,” Molitor said of Wilk. “We know he’s capable. He got off to a good start after the first couple hitters, but gave up the two-out homer after a good at-bat by (Jose) Ramirez.”  

Ramirez was a thorn in the side of whichever Twins pitcher he happened to face when he was up. He opened the day with an opposite-field, two out home run to right off Wilk in the first inning, and followed it up with a home run in the sixth from the other side of the plate off Twins reliever Alex Wimmers in the sixth. In the interim, he roped a double to right in the fourth. Overall, he finished 3-for-5, scoring two runs and driving in four as the focal point of an offense that had 14 hits, seven walks and stranded 11 runners on base overall.

Bradley Zimmer was also a tough out for Twins pitchers, as the rookie center fielder was 2-for-4, and accounted for the other four runs batted in by the Indians, who also added an unearned run in the ninth off reliever Matt Belisle. The 24-year-old outfielder is now hitting .274/.361/.507 through 83 big-league plate appearances, and could soon find himself moving up in the order — especially if Carlos Santana continues to struggle.

The game was never particularly close. After digging a 3-0 hole in the first, the Twins never got closer than that margin, as every time the Twins scored, it was either preceded or followed with runs from the Indians as they trailed 3-0, 4-1, 6-3, 8-3 and finally 9-3 to close the game.

The Twins pushed across one run in the third on the strength of a singles from Ehire Adrianza, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar with an overthrow on a fielder’s choice mixed in. They also added a pair of runs in the fourth — all after two outs — after singles from Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton followed by a double from Adrianza.

The Twins were otherwise punchless all game, as Adrianza’s double into the left-center gap was the team’s only extra-base hit of the day. Twins batters struck out nine times and walked just once — Rosario with his 12th free pass to match his total from all of last season — while the Indians littered the bases all afternoon with seven walks, five doubles and both home runs from Ramirez.

“We’ve done this a little bit more commonly as of late,” Molitor said. “The two-out rallies and still putting up crooked numbers, and they can really hurt you. We started to make a bit of a mark there. We got a nice day from Adrianza, but they just kept separating. That was a lot of hits; it probably could have been worse given how many men they left on base.”

In a brilliant bit of strategy, Indians manager Terry Francona followed the soft-tossing lefty Merritt with Zach McAllister, who threw two scoreless innings with three strikeouts and reached as high as 96 mph on the stadium gun. After spending the first four innings getting 86’d, Twins batters had to recalibrate quickly, and were not up to the task. McAllister, Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero combined for five shutout innings the rest of the way, with seven strikeouts, one walk and just one hit allowed.

The loss dropped the teams into a deadlock at 34-31 for first place in the AL Central, with a loss in the nightcap capable of pushing the Twins out of first place for the first time in over a month.

Notes and Quotes

  • Rosario’s walk raised his season rate to 5.4 percent — a full two percentage points above last year’s mark (3.4 percent) and well above his 3.6 percent career rate.
  • The Twins announced the signing of the first overall pick Royce Lewis on Saturday. Stay tuned to ZoneCoverage.com for a story on that, including quotes from Lewis, Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey and agent Scott Boras, who was in town for the signing.
  • Ramirez homered from both sides of the plate for the first time in his career. It has happened 11 times in Indians history by nine players, including most recently Francisco Lindor on April 5 of this season in Texas.
  • Adrianza just missed his first three-hit game since April 2014.
  • The Twins have lost six straight games to Cleveland at Target Field, and 10 of their last 14 to the Indians in Minneapolis overall.
  • The Twins are just 2-8 in their last 10 games at Target Field.
  • Molitor on what sets Adrianza apart as a utility man: “Well I think he accepts the role. That’s a big part of it. He prepares himself. You’ve got to be able to play around. He’s gifted defensively. You saw today he made some plays look rather easy that weren’t. He can put together a good at-bat. That’s probably the one part of his game that he’s trying to make better. He had a couple big hits today. He fits the mold.”
  • Molitor on the difficulty of moving on quickly from tough loss: “It’s what you’re called to do. The first two games (of the series) have been lopsided. We kind of anticipated having fun this series and competing, and it hasn’t really worked out. Pitching hasn’t given us much of a chance. But it’s going to be 0-0 here in a couple hours, and we’ll start again.”

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